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Bombers, speed over defensive armament, why were lessons ignored ?

Discussion in 'Aircraft' started by Justin Smith, Oct 24, 2011.

  1. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    Concerning the removal of guns and crew for more bomb tonnage. Look at it like this, is the ability to carry two to four more bombs per aircraft worth the risk of losing the aircraft and crew for the lack of firepower and eyeballs scanning the sky?

    You won't get any crew members voting yes on that one.
     
  2. Justin Smith

    Justin Smith Member

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    The relevant authors of the report [on removing the heavies defensive armament in order to increase their speed] were Freeman Dyson and Mike O`Loughlin (from "Lancaster The Biography" p222 - Tony Iveson)
     
  3. Justin Smith

    Justin Smith Member

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    Breakdown in communication here.
    I, and indeed the original authors of the report, weren`t suggesting removal of the defensive armament in order to increase the bomb load but to increase the speed of the bomber. In fact that`s the whole point of this thread, why was it not acted on at the time that speed is the best defence for a bomber, the perfect example being the Mosquito, but a 4 engined version with a larger bomb load (but the same speed) could have been an alternative to the heavies which were getting shot out of the sky far too easily, esp over Germany.
     
  4. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Afraid that was a side comment of mine, after someone mentioned daylight and formations.

    Interesting that Freeman Dyson co-authored the report. According to the wikipedia article on him, removing two turrets (presumably nose and mid-upper) would increase the Lancaster's speed by 50mph - is that right? They did remove the nose turret from the Halifax; most of those had a single nose .303.

    Removing guns for anything would not go over well with crews, but with all due respect, the people closest to the problem are neither unbiased nor always correct. Most notably they routinely demanded that fighters provide close escort. Acceding to those demands helped the Luftwaffe lose the Battle of Britain; breaking away from close escort helped defeat the German fighter force in 1944. Bomber Command crews were skeptical of the bomber stream and other tactics developed by the 'boffins'. Many applications of operational research to antisubmarine warfare met resistance from airmen and sailors who thought they knew better.
     
  5. Hairog

    Hairog Member

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  6. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    In what capacity? Bomber, ground attack, or recon? And which version, the "B" which actually had landing gear and low carrying capacity? Or other non-production versions.
     
  7. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Well, the topic here is bombing, so it would seem to be a comparison of speed, range, and bombload. As discussed earlier, speed varies with or without a bombload, i.e. to/from the target. One key point on the 234 is that its bombs were carried externally, so the difference would be more pronounced than in the Mosquito which, for the missions discussed here, carried its bombs internally. The 4000lb 'cookie' required a bulged bomb bay, but that is still far more aerodynamic than external racks.
     
  8. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    let me take a twist for some of you B-29 experten, could the power turrets track attacking Japanese fighters at high altitude ? it was found and of course very disconcerting in the ETO that the B-17 and B-24 mg positions could not follow Me 262's as they flew through the US formations, only the tail gunner had a remote chance with the longer range of the point 50's.
     
  9. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    I'm not an "experten" on this by any stretch, but I think the GE computerized gun tracking system on the B-29 first and most numerous model was certainly fast enough to do the job. Here is a pretty interesting YouTube video on the system, and check out some of the side links as well.

    Goto:
    B-29 Gun Turrets made by GE Schenectady - YouTube
     
  10. Justin Smith

    Justin Smith Member

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    Does anyone know the loss rates for the 3 main German bombers (Ju88 / Do17 / He111) during the Battle of Britain ?
    When Wikipedia says that the Junkers Ju88 had disproportionate losses, do they actually mean a higher loss rate ?
    If so, why was that when the Ju88 had the highest speed ?
     
  11. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    Justin, from Bishop - Luftwaffe bomber losses by type per month...

    July

    Do17 - 39 destroyed, 13 damaged
    He111 - 32 destroyed, 3 damaged
    Ju88 - 39 destroyed, 11 damaged

    August

    Do17 - 71 destroyed, 31 damaged
    He111 - 89 destroyed, 15 damaged
    Ju88 - 89 destroyed, 32 damaged

    Now from those I can see a number of things....

    1/ look how few He111 are damaged, compared to those destroyed; LW pilots didn't like the vulnerability of the He111's glass greenhouse of a cockpit!

    2/ once you take the He111s' vulnerability out of the equation - yes, there are more Ju88s lost in August, but you'd need a raid-by-raid analysis to see if this was just more JU88 sorties being flown than, say, Do17 ones ;)
     
  12. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Perhaps it is because the original premise of "bomber speed equals defense" is incorrect in practice?
     
  13. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    Actually, looking through Bishop again....I wish he provided September loss figures too...

    ...because he actually remarks that the Ju88 had a lower loss rate than other LW types in the BoB! It could dive faster out of trouble than other types (being designed for the job!) and in a dive even a Spitfire couldn't keep up with it. He also notes that Fighter Command also respected its capacity to take punishment.
     
  14. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Yes, you have to compare losses to sorties to get a loss rate and determine if one type is suffering disproportionate losses. It could also be impacted if there are significant differences in type of missions flown, distance penetrated into British airspace, etc.; but losses/sorties is the basic metric.

    The original topic was speed as protection at night. Prior to the development of radar and integrated air defense systems, speed in daylight had more significant value than it would in the BofB and other WWII actions. In daylight, against effective air intercept control, the key factor turned out to be fighter escort, though bomber speed and a reasonable level of armament were also elements of a multi-layered defense in depth.
     
  15. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    That's something else to factor into the BoB results; as well as bombing sorties, all three LW types were flying weather-spotting flights (sometimes intercepted by standing patrols) and pre-/post-raid photo-recce missions. Bishop just gives all-over losses, however - he sadly doesn't break the losses down by mission profile.
     
  16. Jadgermeister

    Jadgermeister Member

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    This is actually a totally reasonable idea, in fact, thats what most post-war doctrine encourages. If you are only going to get a few percent of bombs on target with a formation raid, why the hell not send a few fast aircraft to put the same number of bombs on the target? Im pretty sure that even fighters attacked factories in Korea, mainly Corsairs launched from carriers.

    Someone asked what the difference would be between a few thousand mossies and heavy bombers, like all the mossies would be used on one target. Thats the entire point, they wouldnt use them all on one target, they would send a few dozen to a hundred or so targets. It would be a nightmare to try and intercept. Your fighters can barely keep up with them in the first place, you have to worry about bombers that have dropped their bombs coming after you while you while you are paying attention to other bombers, and then you have to worry about your own fighters not being engaged by friendly AAA. Then there is the issue of pursuit of the mossies, German fighters would undoubtedly be drawn into AAA while giving chase, do you stop firing or make the fighters go away? It would be insane.

    Same thing happened in Vietnam, even with much much better radar control systems, you let a few fighters out and now you cant shoot at anything in the entire area they are in. If they are engaging the first aircraft, then all the other waves can fly right by them and your AAA and SAMs cant do anything unless you want to risk shooting your own aircraft.

    The theory seems to work very well, even on smaller scales and in the presence of SAMs.
     
  17. efestos

    efestos Member

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    I found that video: Freeman Dyson interwiew: Problems in bombing policy and aircraft design, the idea of removing all the turrets comes in the end of the video. (Link)
     
  18. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    Actually, that's the ENTIRE point of the Lanc vs. Mossie debate - that Bomber Command would have used the Mosquito bomber variant instead of the Lancaster for massed night ops :eek: In fact - the last BC raid of the war was to have been a seven-squadron...80+ aircraft...Mosquito raid on Kiel on the night of May 7th 1945, but it was turned back in the air.
     
  19. Justin Smith

    Justin Smith Member

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    I`ve just found this article on defensive armaments on bombers and very interesting it is too. Towards the end of the article it mentions the Convair B36 and there we have a direct example of the above theory being put into practice. Under Featherweight III the USAAF decided to remove huge amounts of defensive armament and trade it for better performance. It`s a pity Bomber Command didn`t try that earlier in the war, get rid of all the Lancs machine gunss and turrets, streamline it as much as possible, don`t increase the bomb load, and see how fast and high it could fly, and how many fewer bombers got shot down.
     
  20. dsincl

    dsincl recruit

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    Justin, I just came across your thread....................thought you may be interested in this photograph. It is ND587, 8 Group, 405 Pathfinder Sqdn XID = LQ-D, taken March/April 1944. My uncle was killed when it was shot down on May 9, 1944 on their way back from a raid the railyards at Haine-St Pierre. The pilot of the aircraft was RAAF (hence the boomerang and Kangaroos indicating the aircraft's operations to the date of the photo.


    As you can see the front turret had been faired over. I have touted this picture all over the net and have approached the Lancaster historical society, Rolls Royce and spoken to a number of Lancaster veterans - no one as yet can shed any light on this. All considered it non-standard and theories abound as to the reason. To carry special equipment is the most common. My view.............like you, I think that it was defensive armament (weight) being sacrificed for speed.

    One consideration that I don't believe was mentioned in previous replies was that even if the front and mid-upper turrets had been removed, chances are the Lanc would have stuck with a 7 man crew. Some of the vets I spoke with at 460/462 Sqdn told me that the gunners were only gunners as a last resort. They were observers on the lookout for nightfighters- apparently many skippers informally told their AG's not to fire on fighters as it only served to confirm the bomber's position.

    Best wishes,

    David Sinclair
    Sydney
    View attachment 18234
     

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